When Medicine Isn’t Everything

March 17, 2016
Greg Guthrie, ASCO staff

When 6-year-old Mattie Brown was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in 2008, his parents Vicki and Peter didn’t know what lay before them. Sixteen days after Mattie’s diagnosis, he began treatment with chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and surgery. The family was unprepared for the psychosocial impact of the medical treatment. Mattie could not walk, was depressed and anxious, and had medical post-traumatic stress. In September 2009, after 14 months of treatment, he died.

The Browns realized that something had been missing from Mattie’s treatment: psychosocial care. Psychosocial care supports a patient’s emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual needs within the context of family, friends, and culture. There were no standards for how to help the entire family manage the social and emotional effects of treatment. Driven by their experience, Vicki and Peter formed the Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation to advocate for the creation of evidence-based psychosocial standards of care for children with cancer and their families.

In December 2015, those guidelines were published in the journal Pediatric Blood & Cancer. In this podcast, the Browns discuss how Mattie’s journey led them to realize that comprehensive cancer care must include psychosocial care along with medical treatment. share on twitter The standards have the potential to ensure that children with cancer and their families receive psychosocial care from diagnosis through survivorship or end of life and bereavement care.

  • Vicki describes Mattie’s cancer diagnosis and treatment [1:35].

  • Vicki and Peter discuss what psychosocial care is [5:40].

  • Peter and Vicki talk about the psychosocial care standards and what it took to make them come to life [11:48].

  • Peter talks about the next steps in having the standards implemented [16:40].

  • Vicki provides some tips for parents and patients who want to advocate for psychosocial care during treatment [18:58].

This is a prerecorded audio podcast, and it can be listened to online or downloaded to your computer. A transcript of this podcast is also available. For more information, visit the Cancer.Net podcast page.


Share your thoughts on this blog post on Cancer.Net's Facebook and Twitter.